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Group Dynamics

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Group Dynamics

American, Buddhist, high school student, Christian, Italian, African-American, Californian, Olympian. The many ways we describe ourselves are often related to the groups we belong to. Who we interact with the most, who we relate to or are most similar to, our families, and our countries of origin, these groups, among many, define who we are. Groups define how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.

  • What is group dynamics?
  • What are the main elements of group dynamics?
  • What are types of group dynamics?
  • What is group dynamics theory?

Definition of Group Dynamics

Although humans could survive on their own, very few choose to. Most of us will spend our entire lives within a group as most of our activities – working, school, worshiping, and playing – take place within groups. There are many definitions of a group. Many would say that a group requires communication and mutual dependence, while others will require the inclusion of a shared goal or purpose. A group must include two or more individuals, but a group's size can vary greatly.

Group dynamics explores how people work together, what factors facilitate cohesion and cooperation, leadership efficacy, and how groups interact with outside groups.

Group dynamics is the study of the actions, changes, and processes within and between groups.

Group Dynamics and Types of Groups

Groups can be split into two broad categories – primary groups and non-primary groups. Primary groups will include smaller, more intimate connections such as families, friends, or close work associates and are often joined involuntarily (i.e. you can’t choose your family). Members in the primary group regularly interact with one another and spend a lot of time together. Primary groups also have a lot of influence on their individual members.

Group Dynamics, family and group dynamics definition, StudySmarterA family is considered a primary group, freepik.com

Non-primary groups include social groups, collectives, or categories. Social groups can be relatively large and have a more formal organizational structure. Members can come and go as they choose and decide how emotionally involved they wish to be within the group. Collectives who may behave similarly at any point in time. They may or may not need to interact to achieve their goals. An example of this is a group of people waiting in line for a concert.

Five Stages of the Group Dynamics Development

  1. Forming – the selection process for members of the group. Individuals ask one another questions and decide who would be most beneficial to the group. At this point, the objective is often unclear, but hopefully, with the help of leadership, the group can begin to form these objectives.

  2. Storming – the point at which group members discuss their ideas and begin to form a plan to complete tasks. Members also start to find their place and discover what role they wish to play within the group that best suits their identity and skills.

  3. Norming – the point at which members have agreed on the best way to achieve their common goal and have identified the needs of each member. Leadership also establishes a plan for the group to stay on track.

  4. Performing – the point at which a group is working at its highest level of synergy and cooperation. The goals and individual roles are established, and strong leadership has enabled members to become self-reliant.

  5. Adjourning – coming together to celebrate one another's efforts. Each member commends one another on completing the project, recognizing that they could not have achieved their goal on their own.

Group Dynamics in Psychology

When studying group dynamics, researchers are tasked with looking beyond the individual characteristics of each group and identifying commonalities that are consistent between most, if not all, groups. The five main elements of group dynamics are -- interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesiveness.

Interaction in Group Dynamics

Members of a group are often engaged in some form of interaction. This interaction can be either positive or negative. Group members make decisions, get into arguments, talk about issues, and even gossip. They may upset each other or offer support. Groups may work to accomplish difficult tasks, or some may plot against each other.

Group interaction focused on accomplishing a goal is referred to as task interaction. Task interaction is any behavior within a group that is primarily focused on achieving the group’s goals, projects, or plans.

Group Dynamics, coworkers and types of group dynamics, StudySmarterCoworker must interact with one another to complete their project, freepik.com

Task interaction requires the coordination of skills and resources within the group. Contrarily, relationship interaction refers to group behavior that either facilitates or sustains emotional bonds or behavior that threatens the group’s emotional bonds.

Group Dynamics and Goals

Goals are an important element of a group's dynamic. Humans innately tend to set up both short-term and long-term goals as a means of survival. Being in a group intensifies this behavior. Specific goals within a group may involve members as a whole or just a few members, but a common goal ultimately unites the group. For example, a jury’s goal is to decide on a guilty or innocent verdict. A study group’s goal is to ensure everyone in the group achieves the highest grade possible.

According to McGrath (1984), a group achieves its goals by first generating ideas, choosing between options, negotiating solutions, and finally executing tasks. Being in a group can be a meaningful source of inspiration to achieve the group's goals and the individual goals of each member of the group.

Interdependence in Group Dynamics

Group members often must depend on one another to achieve their goals. Lebron James couldn’t win a championship on his own without his team members. Steve Jobs could not have built the iPhone without the help of engineers, programmers, and other staff. This is called interdependence.

Interdependence refers to how group members must depend on one another to achieve their collective and individual goals.

Interdependence doesn’t just apply to the group's goals, but members may also depend on one another to determine their behavior, thoughts, or feelings.

Different groups may have different levels of interdependence. Some groups can achieve their goals independently; however, for other groups, interdependence can mean the difference between life and death, such as a military platoon.

Structure of Group Dynamics

Within a group, the connection between members is organized. This organization is the group’s structure.

Group structure refers to the organization of the roles, norms, and relationships within a group.

Group roles specify the expected behaviors of group members in their assigned positions, while the group’s norms specify the standard and expected behaviors in a given context. Observing the structure of a group can provide the most information about group dynamics. When first joining a group, a person will likely spend the most time figuring out where they fit within the group’s structure. If they cannot find their place, it is likely for that person to decide to leave the group (Forsyth, 2014).

Group Dynamics and Cohesiveness

Finally, how the individual members of a group are bound together is the group’s cohesiveness.

Group cohesion is the unity, connection, or bond within a group resulting from interpersonal bonds or other forces like a shared commitment to achieving the group’s goals.

Without cohesion, a group is at risk of disbanding and falling apart entirely. In a strong group, the individual members become one entity.

Types of Group Dynamics

Group dynamics do not always look the same. Their size, structure, purpose, and overall function can differ. There are two types of group dynamics – formal and informal group dynamics.

Formal Group Dynamics

Formal group dynamics are in groups created by some organization or entity to achieve a specific goal. Its formation is deliberate, and the size of the group is often large. Formal group dynamics are more professional, and the hierarchical structure within the group is imperative.

Group Dynamics Military and Group Dynamics Examples StudySmarterThis military unit is an example of formal group dynamics. Pixabay.com

Informal Group Dynamics

Informal group dynamics are present in groups created more naturally and usually arise due to some organizational need or window of opportunity. This type of group dynamic usually takes place in smaller groups. Members join the group voluntarily, and an approval process is not usually required. Informal group dynamics do not have a well-defined structure but can still impact formal group dynamics.

Examples of Group Dynamics

The following text describes and lists examples of formal and informal group dynamics.

Formal Group Dynamics Examples

Formal group dynamics can occur in many different settings, from corporations and universities to churches, military units, and even sports teams. Real-world examples include:

  • Corporate departments

  • School committees

  • Special task forces

  • Church elders

Informal Group Dynamics Examples

Informal group dynamics can arise to fill a need within the formal group dynamic. This could include interest groups, friendship groups, or reference groups. Real-world examples include:

  • Gatherings to watch football games

  • Bible studies

  • Country clubs

  • Dungeons & Dragons gaming groups

Group Dynamics Theory

Several group dynamics theories look at how groups and intergroup dynamics can affect the individual members and the group's function as a whole. They also seek to understand how and why people perceive a group.

The two most widely accepted group dynamics theories are intergroup conflict and social identity. Intergroup conflict often occurs when there are limited resources and groups have to compete, resulting in conflict. Intergroup conflict can easily result in negative consequences, affecting group performance and achievement of its goals. However, this theory suggests that it can also result in an increase in solidarity and unity within each group. Intergroup conflict can be resolved through communication and problem-solving to eliminate the conflict between the groups.

The second theory in group dynamics is social identity. It suggests that social groups are a significant part of how individuals identify and categorize themselves. A person's social identity can lead them to compare their group (or ingroup) to outside groups (or outgroups). As a result, individuals whose social identities are similar are more likely to have an easier and more comfortable time cooperating (Forsyth, 2014).

Entitativity

Group dynamics psychologists also observe how and why we perceive a congregate of people as a group. Take, for example, the term entitativity, first coined by social psychologist Donald Campbell in 1958.

Entitativity is the extent to which a group is perceived as a single entity rather than individuals.

Campbell drew inspiration from the principles of perception identified by Gestalt psychologists who base their research on how the whole is perceived before the sum of its parts. Entitativity refers to how a gathering of people may be perceived as a group simply due to common fate, similarity, proximity, and other Gestalt principles rather than unrelated individuals. Entitativity has nothing to do with the group's cohesion or unity. For example, four men walking down the street going the same direction and in the same proximity will more likely be perceived as a group rather than four random men who happen to be going the same way.

Thomas Theorem

The Thomas theorem was originally coined by a sociologist named W.I. Thomas in 1928.

The Thomas theorem states that "if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (Thomas & Thomas, 1928, p.572).

Relating this statement to group dynamics, if someone believes they are in a group or perceive a group, then the group is real in its consequences. The Thomas theorem in group dynamics can easily lead to stereotyping. For example, say the person who saw those four men thought their group was a part of a gang. That person perceived they were part of a gang and will, consequentially, begin to make assumptions about the individuals in the group based on their assumptions about gangs.

On the other end, say those four men walking down the street were told they were part of a group and began to believe it for themselves. Individuals who believe they are part of a high entitativity group will likely begin to believe that they are similar to other members of that group and that they may fit in with them well easily. Those four men may begin to believe that they are similar simply because they believe they are part of a group.

Group Dynamics - Key takeaways

  • Group dynamics is the study of the actions, changes, and processes within groups and between groups.
  • The five main elements of group dynamics are interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesiveness.
  • Primary groups will include smaller, more intimate connections such as families, friends, or close work associates and are often joined involuntarily while non-primary groups include social groups, collectives, or categories.
  • The five stages of group dynamics development are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
  • Interdependence refers to the ways in which group members must depend on one another to achieve their collective and individual goals.
  • Group cohesion is the unity, connection, or bond within a group that is the result of interpersonal bonds or other forces like a shared commitment to achieving the group’s goals.

Frequently Asked Questions about Group Dynamics

Group dynamics is the study of the actions, changes, and processes within groups and between groups.

The five stages of group dynamics are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. 

Group dynamics helps us understand how people operate within a group and how groups interact with one another. 

There are two types of group dynamics - formal and informal. Examples of formal group dynamics include universities, churches, corporations, military units, or sports teams.


Examples of informal group dynamics include interest groups, friendship groups, or reference groups.

The five main elements of group dynamics are - interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesiveness.

Final Group Dynamics Quiz

Question

The study of the actions, changes, and processes within and between groups is called _____________. 

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Answer

Group dynamics

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Question

Which of the following is not an example of a primary group?

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Answer

People on the elevator

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Question

What occurs during norming stage of group development?

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Answer

At this point, members have agreed on the best way to achieve their common goal and have identified the needs of each member. Leadership also establishes a plan for the group to stay on track.

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Question

At which stage of group dynamics development is the group working at its highest level of synergy and cooperation?


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Answer

Performing

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Question

What are the five main elements of group dynamics?

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Answer

Interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesiveness.

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Question

_________________ is any behavior within a group that is primarily focused on accomplishing the group’s goals, projects, or plans.

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Answer

Task interaction

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Question

According to McGrath (1984), what four things are required for a group to achieve its goals? 

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Answer

  • Generating of ideas 
  • Choosing between options
  • Negotiating solutions
  • Task execution

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Question

________________ refers to the ways in which group members must depend on one another to achieve their collective and individual goals.

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Answer

Interdependence

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Question

What is group cohesion?

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Answer

Group cohesion is the unity, connection, or bond within a group that is the result of interpersonal bonds or other forces like a shared commitment to achieving the group’s goals.

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Question

Which of the following is an example of an informal group dynamics?

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Answer

Bible studies

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Question

What is entativity?

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Answer

Entativity is the extent to which a group is perceived as a single entity rather than individuals.

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Question

What does the Thomas theorem state?


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"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (Thomas & Thomas, 1928, p.572)

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Question

True or False?  The Thomas theorem in group dynamics can rarely lead to stereotyping.


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Answer

False

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Question

At which stage in the development of group dynamics do group members discuss their ideas and begin to form a plan to complete tasks.


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Answer

Storming

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True or False? Norms specify the standard and expected behaviors in a given context.


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True

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What are the two broad categories of groups?

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primary and non-primary groups

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True or false. Primary groups also have a lot of influence on their members. 

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True

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Which is the correct order of the five stages of group dynamics development?

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Forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning

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Question

________ refers to group behavior that either facilitates or sustains emotional bonds or behavior that threatens the group's emotional bonds.

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Answer

Relationship interaction

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Question

Conducting monthly meetings within an organization is an example of:

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Answer

Task interaction

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Which is an essential element of a group's dynamic?

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Goals

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True or false. Interdependence also applies to a member's behavior, thoughts, or feelings.

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True

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_______ specify the expected behaviors of group members in their assigned positions

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Roles

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Without _________, a group is at risk of disbanding and falling apart entirely.

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Cohesion

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True or false. Entitativity has nothing to do with the group's cohesion or unity.

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True

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True or false. Individuals whose social identities are similar are more likely to have an easier and more comfortable time cooperating.

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True

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